The Shortest Day is the perfect time to plant garlic and shallots. There is a saying that you plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day. For me at least, harvest is quite a bit later than that but planting in June is perfect. Plant them somewhere where they will get sun (can be a bit difficult in winter) and feed with bulb food.
Shallots have a distinct onion based flavour and are mainly used for pickling and in salads. They can be used instead of an onion in most dishes. Planting is really easy: you press them into the soil until the top of the bulb is showing above the ground. Plant them 5-6cm apart.
Elephant Garlic is a milder and sweeter form of garlic that lasts for months and months hanging in the kitchen. It has great health benefits when you use it raw in salads, dressing, butter or sandwiches. Plant it out any time from May until September. They like a warm sunny spot in well worked soil, with the top of the bulb 3-5cm below the soil surface.
Lift them in January when the tops start to die off and lie on the ground to dry. It is important to let them mature after harvest. Spread the bulbs on newspapers or wire racks out of direct sunlight in a cool, well ventilated place to cure for 2-3 weeks until the skins are papery. If you are so inspired you can try your hand at plaiting the stems together and leave them to hang in an airy place. Once cured, they should store for 3-5 months under cool, dry, well-ventilated, dark conditions.
If you want to keep your garlic for a longer period of time and/or process it a bit further to make cooking easier later there are a few options for preserving it.
Simplest of all is freezing it:
- Whole frozen: You can put the unpeeled cloves straight into the freezer, or you can peel them first. They are a bit mushy when thawed but taste fine.
- Chopped and frozen: You can chop up the garlic and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze it: then you can just break a bit off when you need it for cooking.
- Processed in oil and frozen:
You can freeze garlic that has been pureed in oil*. Place one part peeled garlic cloves in a food processor with two parts olive oil. Puree the mixture, then transfer it to a container. Cover the container and place it in the freezer. The oil keeps the mixture from freezing solid and it can be spooned out as needed.
*Do not store the garlic oil puree at room temperature. Garlic is a low-acid food and oil provides an oxygen-free environment, a combination that allows the growth of the bacteria Clostridium botulism, which causes botulism. Commercially produced garlic puree is treated with a preservative to acidify it. I was a bit concerned at one article that also said storing it in the refrigerator was a problem. I freeze most of mine and keep a small amount in the refrigerator at a time.
You also can also dry garlic by peeling cloves and slicing in half lengthways, then drying them in a dehydrator
You can make garlic salt from dried garlic. Powder dried garlic by processing in a food processor until fine. Add 4 parts sea salt to 1 part garlic powder and blend for just 1 to 2 seconds (if you do it any longer it will get too fine and cake together).